A special CBI court on Thursday framed additional charges of abetment of bribery against former Congress MP Naveen Jindal and some others in connection with the allocation of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand. Special Judge Bharat Parashar framed criminal conspiracy and other charges, including cheating and criminal breach of trust, against the industrialist and others for allegedly giving Rs 2-crore bribe to the then minister of state for coal in 2007 for showing him favour in allotment of a captive coal block. The charges were framed after Jindal pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. If held guilty, Jindal may get a maximum of five-year imprisonment. Similar charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal breach of trust were also framed against other accused, including former coal secretary HC Gupta, after they claimed trial. The court said though there was “prima facie” evidence that then MoS, Coal, Dasari Narayan Rao, took Rs 2 crore as bribe, no formal charge was being framed, considering that he has passed away.
“Rao had prima facie accepted bribe amount of Rs 2 crore from Naveen Jindal for showing favour to him in the allotment of a captive coal block in favour of his companies so charge for the offence under Section 7 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act) of Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act was also made out against him. “However, as Rao has since expired and proceedings against him already stands abated so no formal charge for the substantive offence under Section 7 PC Act is required to be framed,” the judge said. Regarding Jindal, the court said he abetted the offence under Section 7 PC Act as was prima facie committed by Rao, by giving the bribe. “Accordingly charge for the offence under Section 12 (abetment of offence under Section 7) of PC Act is ‘prima facie’ made out against Naveen Jindal,” the order stated. In April 2016, the court ordered framing of charges against Jindal, Rao, former coal secretary HC Gupta and 11 others for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust under the IPC and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act in the case.
However, the charge under Section 12 (punishment for abetment of offences defined in Section 7 (public servant taking gratification) or 11 (public servant obtaining valuable thing, without consideration from person concerned in proceeding or business transacted by such public servant) of Prevention of Corruption Act was not framed then. The court, however, did not frame charges against Koda since he was absent on Thursday on the pretext of a court hearing in Ranchi, Jharkhand. It, however, warned him, saying, “there is a casual attitude on the part of accused persons towards participating in the proceedings of the present matter. Accordingly, a stern warning has been issued to the accused persons that no such latitude will be shown in future by the court.” The court has posted the matter for further hearing on August 31, when the charge will be framed against Koda.
The court also framed criminal conspiracy charge against Jindal Steel’s then advisor Anand Goel, Nihar Stocks’ director BSN Suryanarayan and Mumbai’s Essar Power’s executive vice-chairman Sushil Kumar Maroo. The three were named in an additional charge sheet filed by the agency in the case. CBI had alleged that Koda had favoured Jindal group firms — JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron — in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal block. It had later alleged that five accused named in the second charge sheet tried to hamper the investigation and threatened Suresh Singhal, a chartered accountant who was earlier arrayed as an accused but later turned approver. All the accused have denied the allegations levelled against them and said there was no evidence to show that there was any conspiracy during the coal block allocation process. The CBI has filed another charge sheet against Jindal and others, including Goel and Maroo, for allegedly cheating the government by misrepresenting facts to get the Madhya Pradesh-based Urtan North coal block.